Meet Jeff Perry

jeff-perry-iconJeff Perry is a native of New Jersey and works as an executive chef.  He attended Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and he is also a Certified Executive Chef from The American Culinary Federation.  Jeff and his wife Michelle have been members of Upper Meadows Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program for five years and he is currently the coordinator for the Flanders pick-up site at Ashley Farms.  He is also our farm’s culinary guru; creating recipes from the weekly shares, planning holiday menus, and sharing helpful culinary hints.

Even with all that Jeff is as ready to lend a hand in the field or with any farm chore. You are not likely to meet anyone with more of a “can-do” attitude!  Jeff and Michelle joined the CSA to be involved with a local NJ farm. I will always remember their first visit to the farm when Jeff tried one variety of hot pepper after another  right in the field. As his eyes teared up, Michelle commented that he’s  just that way and she is perfectly happy to let Jeff eat all the hot peppers.   Ever since they have been active members of  Upper Meadows’ food community.  They appreciate the  opportunities that we offer for folks to gain first-hand knowledge of organic farming practices and participate in their food from the field to their plate.

Bad Days ? Disasters? Or Plain Old Life On The Farm?

An old apple tree

An old apple tree

Leonard had his share of challenges last year. On top of a once in a lifetime family crisis, there was a late frost that killed off fruit tree buds, a freak heat wave that wilted the lettuce, and a visit from a bear that inspired a mini-cattle stampede into the kale. Leonard chronicled all these events in his weekly newsletter, prompting one CSA member to ask, “Does this guy know how to farm at all?” (He does, but that’s not my point today.)

All farmers face these kinds of challenges all the time. When you farm everything is a variable.  A few years back, I did a story about an organic farm started by a New York City real estate mogul. He said he thought real estate was the saner profession and his farm manager, who believed in pastured poultry as much as Leonard, told me a long, sorry tale about chickens and turkeys regularly lost to predators. There are lots of farmers blogging now, and their posts have a familiar ring.  An organic farm in Australia has been trying to cope with the massive drought down there. A huge tree fell the other day, narrowly missing its chicken coop, but taking much-needed shade for the coop down with it. Closer to home, I’ve read posts from small farmers coping with ice storms that wreck their greenhouses, storms that flood their fields and more. It is really quite an act of faith to put a seed in the ground (however many) and expect to be able to earn a living from those that grow. Set up a Google alert for “organic farm” and you’ll see what I mean.

But more important than each tale of woe was what happened next: In every event, the farmer just cleaned up the mess and went right back to the business of growing good organic food. (I’m reminded of the lyric, “just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”)  Leonard says he has a friend in her 90s who has a sampler in her kitchen with this fitting saying:  “Good things cometh to he who waiteth, as long as he worketh mightily while he waiteth.”

This year, I expect that there will be good days and bad days on the farm.  Some days might even qualify as disasters if it’s your favorite crop that takes the hit. But the more I read, the more  I am learning that living each day whatever it brings, is another simple truth of life on a farm.

Agriculture On Rise In Garden State

The Courier-Post, a south Jersey paper, has taken a look at the latest U.S. Census of Agriculture data and sees good news for New Jersey. The Garden State now has 10,327 farms, 4% more than it had in 2002 and the highest number of farms since 1965. One of the bright spots of growth? Organic farming. You can read the paper’s full story here.